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The Role Of Cybersecurity In Strengthening National Security

National insecurity is a cancerous cell. Poisonous as it may be and unsolicited as it may seem, it is still tightly clipped to the organs of our nation, releasing toxins at a rate our antibodies cannot control

The stories told by our grandparents about how petty traders did not have to stay with their goods are beautiful. They could leave their commodities by the road, put price tags on them, and rest assured that they would meet their money when they returned. They reminded us of days when news from the radio channels was nothing but a dulcet in the ear and the cool breeze of love would breathe out its soothing safety towards strangers who knocked on our doors, days when the young ones were attracted to the charming fragrance of education, and days when criminals were seen as criminals. They regaled us with the stories of how bountifulness dominated pennilessness and how the naira was the ‘king’ of the money market. They called it the good old days.

Today, all that has changed. The cyberspace, in its black regalia, has attracted a noticeable number of followers. Our petty traders, after praying to God to bring customers in the morning, also make sure to confirm transaction alerts before selling their services or products. The resounding sad news of banditry, killings, kidnappings, floods, embezzlement of public funds, etc. Deafens our ears. We are now more than ever afraid to respond to messages via social media from strangers who seek assistance from us. Our young ones see education as a ‘scam’ and choose to ‘bomb’—a Nigerian slang that denotes cyber theft—at night so they can ‘cash out’ during the day. The scarcity of dollars is like white tigers in the wild, when a NGN35, 000 minimum wage cannot purchase a bag of rice. A large percentage of people are attracted to the enticing fragrance of ‘Japa’—a Yoruba locution that means to search for a greener pasture—just to get rid of ‘Sapa’, another popular Yoruba slang that symbolises pennilessness. What a saddening metamorphosis!

National insecurity is a cancerous cell. Poisonous as it may be and unsolicited as it may seem, it is still tightly clipped to the organs of our nation, releasing toxins at a rate our antibodies cannot control. And it is becoming clearer day by day that only the presence of a digital safety mechanism can birth a sustainable solution. Given this reality, this article will attempt to explore the role of cybersecurity in strengthening national security. But before we dive into the crux of this article, we must identify the challenges weakening national security.

Challenges Weakening National Security

According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria‘s  national security strategy, espionage, cyber terrorism, kidnapping, illicit financial flow (IFF), human trafficking, terrorism, fake news and hate speech, environmental pollution, resurgence of viral disease, inequality, dilapidated infrastructure, substandard education system, cultural disagreements, food insecurity, poverty and unemployment, energy deficit, etc., are challenges that are weakening national security.

The Role of Cybersecurity in Strengthening National Security

Based on my research on cybersecurity and national security, I have identified six critical ways in which cybersecurity can play significant roles in the script of national security. I corroborated these roles below:

  1. Safeguarding National Data
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National data is highly confidential information that is not for everyone to behold; robust data security is essential in protecting this data from malware and hackers as well as preventing unauthorised access. Data security ensures that national information about citizens, assets, and infrastructure is kept safe; it ensures that a nation’s reputation is kept clean; and it provides support for the national development process. For instance, encryption and data masking allow a nation to maintain data confidentiality by scrambling data and hiding its true meaning from hackers; tokenization protects data as it moves across a country’s entire information technology infrastructure. And, when citizens’ or government data are no longer needed, data erasure and data resilience lessens the risk of data loss by building support mechanisms, especially during data infringement.

  1. Combating Cybercrime and Terrorism

Cyber spies can use cyberspace to steal proprietary information from the government; cyber terrorists can use it to train other terrorists, plan attacks, and even syphon funds for terror operations; and cyber warriors who undertake cyber attacks to support a nation’s strategic goals can use it. Operational security (OPSEC)—a security risk management process that detects innocuous moves will help monitor behaviours, identify sensitive data, identify possible threats and vulnerabilities, and reveal data about cybercriminals, terrorists, thieves, and warriors.

  1. Protecting Critical National Asset and Infrastructure (CNAI)

In truth, a nation that wants to be secure will have to defend its critical assets and infrastructure such as energy, transportation, agriculture, etc. With the shield of cybersecurity. Zero trust: a cloud security process, can safeguard assets and infrastructures by removing implicit trust and enforcing strict identity authentication and authorizations; it aids government and industrial leaders in knowing where networks’ most critical and valuable data, assets, applications, and services are located and consistently monitoring and re-verifying what identities are accessing the resource and how in compliance with infrastructure and security policies. While data diodes maintain vital information flow and decrease the risk of human error, security gateways help get accurate predictions from data and infrastructure management agencies. For example, since hydropower solely depends on the forces of water to generate energy, a security gateway process provides reliable forecasts ahead of time needed by energy operators to swiftly switch to secondary power like nuclear, coal, or gas plants in the event of weak forces of water.

Additionally, Internet of Things (IoT) security, a cyber protection mechanism, helps to improve operational efficiency and streamline processes in various industries; it facilitates and enhances regulatory compliance, and preserves client trust; it mitigates network risk; and it potentially controls physical industrial processes and machinery.

  1. Promoting Environmental Sustainability

In the protection of environmental infrastructure, cybersecurity protects digital assets and infrastructures by controlling and monitoring smart-grid waste management system networks, green energy generation, and water conservation by preventing disruptions that could undermine sustainability efforts and contribute to environmental harm, ensuring that there is integrity and confidentiality in these systems. In preserving the confidentiality and integrity of environmental research data, cybersecurity protects valuable environmental data from unauthorised access, tempering, or theft; it facilitates acknowledgement in fields like climate science, biodiversity conservation and environmental modelling. Further, when environmental sustainability stakeholders are well-informed about cybersecurity, it empowers them to make informed decisions and mitigate cybersecurity risks when implementing sustainable solutions. This is because the maintenance of an environmental warning system is essential for accurate and timely responses to emerging climate threats.

  1. Skill Development and Job Creation
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In a nation where citizens are nailed to the wall of poverty by the hands of unemployment, cybersecurity can become a saviour. Simplilearn stated that over one million cybersecurity jobs will be available in 2023, and less than 400,000 skilled workers will have the skills needed to work well in these jobs. This means that there are job vacancies that can be filled by more trained people.

  1. Enhancing Sovereignty Capabilities

Cyber sovereignty, an assertion of national authority over cyberspace and online activities can help national leaders smartly govern and regulate the internet within their borders, uphold cultural values, and maintain social order. For example, cryptography, a process that allows only an entity designated to receive a message to access it, can prevent cyber criminals from intercepting corporate information. A practical example of this is the popular ‘green app’ WhatsApp, which encrypts chats between users to ensure we cannot intercept them. Also, the use of block cyphers, stream cyphers, asymmetric cryptography, identity-base encryption (IBE), hush functions, etc. Plays critical roles in maintaining privacy, confidentiality, authentication, accountability, and integrity in enhancing our national sovereignty.

Constraints to Cybersecurity in Strengthening National Security

Following my in-depth analysis and those of experts in the cybersecurity industry, you will agree with me that the major constraints to cybersecurity playing an influential role on national security are basically the lack of cybersecurity education and awareness, cybersecurity strategic plan, cybersecurity financing, cybersecurity infrastructure.

Recommendations

I agree with Oluwafemi, Adeyinka, and Abdulhamid, who  in their research work recommended that to promote cybersecurity and strengthen national security, we must develop a cybersecurity culture, develop cybersecurity policies and strategies, establish a rapid information exchange system, set up cyberspace patrols, utilise ethical hacking, and collaborate with other countries.

Additionally, government and policymakers must ensure that there is sustainable financial support to build cybersecurity infrastructures. Educators must ensure that they integrate cybersecurity awareness programmes into school curricula, especially in tertiary institutions and workplaces, by continually training staff and workers in this respect.

As much as I am optimistic about the role of cybersecurity in strengthening national security, the truth is that this in-depth research can only be practical through the collective effort of good citizens, leaders and followers alike. A butterfly cannot call itself a ‘bird’ because it can fly. And so, for us to strengthen national security and embark on a flight to safety, we must notice the omnipresence of cybersecurity. After all, a bird can never fly with one wing.

Odu Sunday

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